The Great Kiskadee is one of the most common and recognizable birds in Costa Rica. You probably won’t have to look long for this one because it shouts out for attention with its bold behavior, striking plumage and frequent, loud vocalizations. This hefty flycatcher shouts out its name over and over; “Kiskadee! Kiskadee!” from tree tops, telephone poles and the tops of houses. Its bold behavior and looks make the Great Kiskadee easy to identify and fun to watch in Costa Rica.
A hefty bird about the size of an American Robin or Eurasian Blackbird, the Great Kiskadee is bright yellow below, brown above and has a strongly marked black and white head. Note the straight, strong bill and reddish-brown highlights in the wings and tail to separate this species from the similarly patterned Boat-billed and Social Flycatchers.
Behavior in Costa Rica
In being adapted to ephemeral, early successional habitats (as opposed to being a specialist) the Great Kiskadee evolved to take advantage of every possible food source. This is probably why they have become so well adapted to living around people and explains why they will visit feeders for fruit, sally to catch insects like other flycatchers, feed at fruiting trees, hover and pounce on lizards like a kestrel or dive into shallow water for fish like a kingfisher. Kiskadees are probably the flycatcher species with the widest range of abilities.
Habitat and distribution in Costa Rica
A noisy, non-forest species, the Great Kiskadee is easy to see in gardens, second growth and other open situations in Costa Rica. It can even be found in the heart of the city. You won’t see it deep inside the forest because the natural habitat for this species is the open vegetation naturally found along rivers and other bodies of water. This type of vegetation is very similar to human-made habitats; something that the the Great Kiskadee has greatly benefited form. The Great Kiskadee in Costa Rica is found in both humid and dry habitats from the lowlands to around 1,500 meters.